Sustainable disposal of excess sludge: Incineration without anaerobic digestion

Xiaodi Hao*, Qi Chen, Mark C.M. van Loosdrecht, Ji Li, Han Jiang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleScientificpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Handling excess sludge produced by wastewater treatment is a common problem worldwide. Due to limited space available in landfills, as well as difficulties involved in using excess sludge in agriculture, there is a need for alternative disposal methods. Although anaerobic digestion (AD) is widely used in processing sludge, only partial energy recovery from methane and sludge volume reduction can be achieved, resulting in a substantial amount of sludge remaining, which needs to be disposed of. Direct incineration after sludge drying is one possible option, a practice that is already in place in some cities in China. A comparison between direct incineration and conventional AD (with or without pretreatment by thermal hydrolysis) has to be made with respect to the energy balance and investment & operational (I & O) costs. This comparison reveals direct incineration to have the lowest energy deficit and I & O costs. Therefore, it is expected that direct incineration without AD will become the preferred sustainable approach to handling sludge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115298
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Direct incineration
  • Energy deficit
  • Investment & operational costs
  • Sludge disposal
  • Sludge drying


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